George Shepherd is grizzly keeper at the local zoo, and, what’s much more difficult, guardian of his sixteen year old niece. After seven years he believes he’s finally balanced the muddy claws, menstrual cycles and a past mistake he doesn’t ever expect to escape.
Then a little boy shows up with the news that on Cindy’s seventeenth birthday, she will be taken as a princess by the prince of another world. This is easily dismissed. He pats the boy on the head and takes him home, hoping Cindy didn’t hear anything.
At worst a sick prank, he thinks. Until things start turning up that can only be construed as evidence: symbols, letters, dreams, an impossible painting. With the help of Cindy’s former teacher, he knows he must do whatever it takes to make sure Cindy is not in danger, even when it means directly confronting the past he’s tried so hard to bury. All before the least momentous birthday he hopes Cindy will ever have.
Part mystery, part romance, with a dose of magical realism and mid-life crisis, the true heart of this story is the exploration of what keeps us going when we lose it all, and the fine line between holding on for dear life and just letting go.